Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Animal Welfare Debate - The Puppy Trade

I would like to thank the many constituents who have contacted me this week about the important issue of animal welfare. Neil Parish MP, member for Tiverton and Honiton has secured a backbench business debate tomorrow in Parliament about stricter legislation surrounding the puppy trade. I am unfortunately unable to attend due to a long standing commitment with the Public Accounts Committee. Please be assured, however, I fully support the aims of this debate and hope to see better protection for animals against cruel and unfair breeding practices.
Tighter laws around selling and breeding dogs will make it illegal to sell puppies younger than eight weeks old and require anyone breeding and selling three or more litters of puppies a year to apply for a formal licence. Breeders who do not follow these rules will face an unlimited fine and/or up to six months imprisonment.

The new rules will also mean that ‘backstreet breeders’ as well as larger commercial breeders must meet strict welfare criteria to get a licence. They will also govern anyone trading commercially in pets online.

If this new licencing scheme is properly enforced, it should allow buyers to distinguish between a reputable breeder and a rogue breeder or seller.  

The rapid rise of social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook has brought with it a worrying trend of certain dog breeds becoming more sought-after and ‘fashionable’. For example, the Pug and French Bull dog have become extremely popular in recent years – this is reflected not only online but in well-known shops selling merchandise and clothing with images of these dog breeds on it. This will naturally put pressure on the puppy trade industry as the demand increases.
In January, the RSPCA reported that there was an increasing number of these ‘designer’ dog breeds being abandoned and making their way into their care. Premature separation from mothers and over-breeding have severe negative consequences for animals’ health and wellbeing. Many irresponsible breeders neglect the welfare of their animals and may not properly vaccinate them, leading to steep vet’s bills for buyers. This ultimately adds to the number of abandoned dogs when their owners realise they cannot afford to give them the care they need. The RSPCA reported that many of the abandoned dogs suffered from severe skin conditions and other medical concerns, which is likely due to the poor conditions they have been bred and raised in by puppy dealers as well as neglect from owners.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government are responsible for animal welfare. The SNP Scottish Government has already implemented an Animal Dealers Regulation, which restricts the sale of young cats and dogs, and ensures the welfare of puppies who pass through a dealer. Despite this being a devolved matter, I have publically supported many campaigns promoting better protection of animals and I welcome the recent changes the UK Government has made.
Many animal welfare charities encourage anyone considering owning a dog to think about rehoming an older dog first. I would encourage anyone planning to buy a dog from a breeder or seller to beware of irresponsible breeders and sellers. The new legislation set out by the UK Government is certainly a step in the right direction however, I do believe in order for it to be effective, it requires proper and robust enforcement. I hope the UK Government will continue to take steps to protect animals and I will continue to support any campaign that calls for better animal welfare laws.